Sometimes fate or destiny lets you know when you’re in the right place at the right time, doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
Looking back over the past eight years, Saskatoon-based recording artist Jen Lane has come to realize that the trials and tribulations she endured during that time has led to the creation of what is thus far her most personal, most compelling and most powerfully evocative album.
This Life of Mine is the culmination of a time in Lane’s personal and creative life that can truly be described as a roller coaster ride that began after she was sidelined with a foot and ankle injury that took several years and multiple surgeries to repair.
“It really stole my momentum because I was in the middle of pushing my self titled album. I had to keep re-introducing myself to the industry, to club owners and promoters. It was rough,” Lane said.
With her first two releases, one of which was nominated for a Prairie Music Award in 2000 (Sleepless), Lane garnered a lot of attention within the Western Canadian music scene. Her self-titled 2006 album and the 2010 follow-up (For the Night) generated a buzz each time out, but when it came to touring, the ankle issue kept cropping up. Both were nominated for Western Canadian Music Awards and Jen received many notable showcases across the country and into the US including 3 trips to SXSW.
A stroke of good fortune found Lane when her and her partner in life and music John Antoniuk played a show in Kelowna in 2014. They were offered a ‘band house’ to stay in that night which ended up being on a beautiful 13-acre alpaca farm in the wilderness and featured the acclaimed Bottega Studio. They returned shortly after to record the up and coming “This Life of Mine”.
The environment within Bottega inspired amazing performances from all the musicians, from producer John MacArthur Ellis, and from Lane herself. The atmosphere outside the studio and the trees and meadows that dotted the landscape of the idyllic alpaca farm, brought forth music that helped Lane process all that had happened in the recent years.
“This place was like a dream; everything about it just spoke to me”, she said. “There was a grand piano and a Hammond organ, and guitars that Eric Clapton had played. It proved to be one of the smoothest, most enjoyable recording experiences I have ever had.”
The title track encapsulates Lane’s philosophy of life in the wake of all her health challenges, the frustrating loss of momentum and more crucially, the loss of her beloved grandfather.
“He passed away the day we arrived at the studio. I thought I would have to shut everything down but then I realized that my grandfather would kick my ass if I did that. He was an artist and a huge supporter of my music. My parents told me not to worry, and to do the album because they were going to have the wake in the summer. It ended up being a blessing to be dealing with his loss, reflecting on his life and his inspiration in these amazing surroundings. He was a lover of nature and was a sculptor, painter and poet so he would have really appreciated it. I think his spirit was certainly around this project.”
Lane wrote every song on This Life of Mine except for “Thirteen” by Big Star (inspired by a record player that her husband and band mate gave her for Christmas). Her songs paint a picture of an artist who is not only a master melodic craftsperson but also able to provoke listeners to think, reflect and feel deeply through her compositions.
Shoe, the first single from the album, is a foot stomper of a song - a little bit country, a little bit bluegrassy and a definite fan favourite.
“I was in the thick of a recovery from one of my surgeries and John was touring. I was stuck upstairs in our big old house and getting a little shack wacky. The "shoe" reference comes from Orange Is The New Black referring to solitary as "The Shoe". At the time that’s how I felt; sort of shackled down for long periods of time yet trying to have some fun in that sort of insane situation,” she said.
Movin’ On fits the theme of the album in that its overarching message to the listener is about perseverance.
“It’s about going through all the highs and lows in life and understanding that the most important thing you can do is move on. Holding onto things that are painful doesn’t get you anywhere. I know that first hand,” Lane said, adding that the deeply moving Hollow Heart may be the closest thing to a true ‘hurtin’ song’ on the album.
“I have found that writing songs allows me to do something constructive with my sadness and pain. I would rather find my tears through the artistic process than just wallow in them. When people say they can identify with the sadness in a song like Hollow Heart, it feels good that I did something positive with my sadness”.
Lane believes all that she has experienced over the past eight years – the good and the bad – have brought her to a place of free creative exploration where she has found a harmonious place in the world of Country, Roots, Folk and Americana music.
This Life of Mine is a strong statement by an artist who is now comfortable in her own creative skin and able to honestly, and with great passion and depth, sing about the ups and downs of life – and in the process attract music lovers who appreciate heartfelt emotion, beautiful songs and words that inspire and affirm.